Today was the longest drive we have made this trip and most likely to ever make again.  We left very early – about 8:15 – just as it is getting light and drove through beautiful countryside to arrive at Albi in Southern France, close to Toulouse.  There are

2 big draws to Albi and they are the Toulouse – Lautrec Museum, and the Place Ste, Cecile church.  I don’t like Toulouse – Lautrec art so we skipped that and as soon as we checked into our hotel we walked over to the church.  Ste. Cecile Cathedral was built from 1282 to 1380.  At it’s peak, Albi was the administrative center for 465 churches.  Back when tithes were essentially legally required taxes, everyone gave their 10 per cent to the church.  The local bishop was filthy rich and had the money to build a great church.  There are two special sights in this church – the choir and The Last Judgment art.  In the Middle Ages, nearly all cathedrals had ornate Gothic choir screens like this one.  These highly decorated walls divided the church into a private place for clergy and a general area for the people.  The screen enclosed the altar and added mystery to the mass.  In the 16th century the screens were removed.  Later, French Revolutionary atheists destroyed most of the choir screens that remained – Albi is a rare survivor.  Just under the massive organ pipes are The Last Judgment painting.  It is the oldest art in the church (1474), and is also the biggest Last Judgment painting from the Middle Ages.  We got back to the hotel fairly early today to catch up on the blog and check online for future hotels in the cities we are going to next.  We tried to eat early because we had no lunch but, as in the last place, restaurants do not start cooking until 7:00 pm.  We are hoping that is not the case in Italy.